Archiving to Tape: Your Key to Swift and Scalable Data Archiving

Topics: Data Archive

New tape technologies offer blistering speeds, stunning capacities, and reliability two to three times the order of magnitude of disks—all at a lower cost.


The current crop of tape cartridges and drives are made from better materials than earlier generations. They also feature improved reliability, thanks to error correction and verification.


Is it important to have a tape backup? Can tape scale to meet your company’s rapidly rising demands? Consider this scenario:

Your business, Neater Greetings, provides e-greetings to several million users. These happy paying customers also rely on you to manage a calendar of their friends’ and families’ birthdays.

Business is great, and life is good: Your ostensibly fail-safe systems back up your customers’ accounts regularly to multiple disks. This seems sound, so you never consider how a single software bug could corrupt those disks—until it actually happens (on the day before Mother’s Day, no less).

Because you also back up to a tape-based system, however, you avoid a larger crisis, because the bug couldn’t get to those offline copies. So once you get those files restored, you’re back in business.

This can happen to anyone—from a major online brand to a server down the street. Fortunately, today’s tape backup systems are up for the challenge.

Tape: Expand Your Backup Options

This isn’t called the “Information Age” for nothing. Businesses are built on data, and that data grows exponentially every year. Fortunately, there are tape backup systems for every need, including massive cabinets that can scale to offer thousands of terabytes of storage.

Indeed, tape storage and access improves all the time. Just a few years ago, for example, IBM researchers demonstrated a way to improve data density on standard magnetic tapes. The IBM team recorded data density of 29.5 billion bits per square inch—about 39 times better than the most popular industry-standard magnetic tape product at the time. The upshot: Tape backup systems continue to increase in capacity.

That’s not the only improvement. Consider the following advances.

Feel Confident About More Storage

Look what’s happening—and what’s soon to be—with tape capacities:

  • Now: The newest LTO-5 (linear tape-open) cartridges can store three terabytes of information, offering transfer speeds of 280 megabytes per second.
  • Later this year: LTO-6 cartridges (expected to ship in the second half of 2012) will hold up to 8TB of compressed data.
  • Next year and beyond: LTO-8 cartridges should have a 32TB capacity.

Count on Continued Reliability

IT managers who remember tape failures from decades ago shouldn’t spend the rest of their career recommending disk systems instead. The current crop of tape cartridges and drives are made from better materials than earlier generations. They also feature improved reliability, thanks to error correction and verification. 

Step Up to Top-Level Safety and Security

Tape now features built-in protection. The LTO-4 generation added AES-256 encryption. Plus, write-once-read-many (WORM) technology built into LTO-3, LTO-4 and LTO-5 tapes prevents data overwriting.

One of the more exciting developments in tape is the introduction of the LTFS, or linear tape file system. Available for LTO-5 tapes, it lets the user partition the tape into two parts. A smaller section holds the index and metadata; a larger section holds all the files. The files in the small section categorize the items stored in the larger one, so the user doesn’t need another application to tell what’s on the tape.

It’s clear that tape isn’t going away anytime soon. And if you rely on it for your business-critical data storage, neither is your company.


Iron Mountain Recommends: A Higher Level of Tape Archiving

It’s energy-efficient, scalable, highly secure and constantly improving. Of course we’re talking about tape backup. And while archiving to tape is an essential part of your data backup program, Iron Mountain understands the need for ancillary services. Its offerings include:

Store It: Offsite Tape Vaulting

Your tapes are secure in transit and when stored. Ideal climate conditions keep them from degrading, and shielding prevents them from being damaged by magnetic waves. Also consider the office space you’ll free up by sending your tapes to an Iron Mountain facility.

Access It: Online Storage Services

Cloud storage solutions are an excellent complement to a tape-based storage system. A Web browser is all you need to administer and monitor your server backups when you choose Iron Mountain® Server Backup or Iron Mountain® PC Backup. Information is stored in remote, mirrored data centers and is available for quick retrieval.

Bring It Home: Restoration

Tapes and other storage media evolve over time, forcing many companies to hold onto obsolete technology just to read data in case of litigation, regulatory investigations or internal requests. Imagine how much money and effort you could save if you hired a company to restore data from those older materials when needed. The experts at Iron Mountain Data Restoration and Migration Services can get the job done quickly and efficiently.


Do you have questions about data backup and recovery? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain’s Data Backup and Recovery team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.

Related Content:

Learn the Advantages of Offsite Archiving

Data Restoration and Migration: Keep What Matters Get Back What You Need

Tape Archiving: Still Efficient Still Inexpensive